Falcon nation celebrates Homecoming this week and I want to take you back to 2003 — the year I graduated from high school and some of the choices I made I still regret to this day.

I know it is hard to believe; I barely look old enough to have graduated that long ago right?

Anyhow, let me start by congratulating this year’s homecoming royalty court and this year’s king and queen. In my senior year of high school I was ineligible to be on the court nomination slip — my name wasn’t even printed as a part of the West Sioux High School Class of 2003.

You see, at 13 years old, I thought that it was cool to hang around with my sister and her group of friends who were about four years older than me. We were at a party by Hudson, SD, and I was chosen to drive home because I was the only one who only had two drinks at the party. Logically, at 13-years-old, that made sense I guess (I know, not really).

I got us all safe and back to Hawarden. Everyone was dropped off at home. Then my sister told me I was supposed to go park the car by D.A.R.S. in Hawarden (don’t ask me why, because I don’t remember why). However, I went the wrong way down the only one-way road we have in Hawarden and the cherries were flashing in my rear view mirror. It was horrible. Not worth it whatsoever and to this day I feel incredibly foolish for my choices.

Yes, I was punished. Had to go to drunken driving classes before I was even old enough to have my driver’s permit — making me unable to participate in the royalty court if I would have been chosen at all.

Being able to be part of the homecoming royalty court was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I blew before I even had the chance.

To the Class of 2020 and all other students reading this column: Make smarter choices than I did. Juuling, drinking and substance abuse aren’t worth it.

There are so many other ways to enjoy life: participating in sports, being active in the music programs and taking the courses that peak your interest are all things I encourage every student to do. Choose to be active in your school and community because those opportunities in high school may never be offered again once you get old like me.

That year our homecoming queen was Roni Van Ravenswaay. She was well deserving of the honor. After high school, Roni was diagnosed with cancer and lost her battle. She didn’t have many years to take advantage of the opportunities that were given to her or enjoy all she worked hard to earn.

What I am saying is, enjoy your homecoming but don’t make choices you will regret. Embrace the moment, enjoy your classmates and be grateful for all you have.

I’ve been able to start over. I’ve been able to pass on to my children what I learned not to do and as several of their friends know I will always be a safe house, if you are struggling I will listen.

To all of Falcon nation: Represent the school appropriately and proudly. Respect yourselves enough to make choices that will better your life instead of choices that will land you in drunken driving courses or suspended from events you only have one chance in life to be part of.

Whether you are part of the royalty, the pep band, the football team, the cheerleaders, a fan, a classmate, a teacher, a mom or dad — lets all strive to remember to live life while we can, to participate in community functions, school activities and be proud representatives of Falcon Nation.

Katie Anderson is a staff writer for the Hawarden Independent/Ireton Examiner. She may be reached at kanderson@nwestiowa.com.